After a short break, we’re continuing where we left off – with a new week (#3) of healthy challenges. (I count healthy weeks like I count crunches – oops, one more never hurt!) Hopefully you have continued incorporating positive changes into your everyday eating habits.

This week we will focus on eating mindfully. A great deal of success comes from making conscious choices and thinking about what and how much we put into our body. So this week, the challenge is to think before you eat. Today I would like to share with you some portion size information as well as tips on how to avoid taking in unnecessary calories.

One of my favorite tips is eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day (for example 5 to 6 small meals rather than 3 or less larger ones). This increases metabolism and has been proven to result in consuming fewer and burning more calories. I know this method may not work or be desirable for everyone – as it does require even more planning. But, if we each really consider what we are eating, when, where and how we are consuming it, we can increase our health through conscious choices and easy decisions.

We eat in so many different places and at many different times of the day.

For example, many of us eat out at least 2-3 times each week. And we all know how large restaurant servings can be. A couple of mindful decisions we can make include: asking for half of our meal (dinner) to be wrapped immediately as it is served; or ordering an appetizer as a main course – especially after having enjoyed a first course, soup or salad as a starter. Remember, just because your friends or spouse is ordering a full three-course meal and a couple drinks (which we all know can be major “empty calorie” contributors), we don’t have to follow along. Dining out can be a fulfilling experience and be healthy by thinking about the quality of the food experience rather than the quantity – and hey, we may even save a few bucks, too!

Another time we eat, can be as we watch television. This is generally a bad idea. Why? Because this is exponential mindless eating. (Think calories to the nth degree!) If you are not conscious about what you are consuming, you are more likely to consume much more than you need or for that matter, even want. Some helpful tips: Never eat standing! Don’t eat directly out of a big bowl or bag – simply put your snack into a small, single serving bowl.

Additionally, in this society, many of us were raised with the “clean the plate” attitude – after all there are: “children starving in Africa” So, again, being mindful about how much we put on our plate in the first place can really go a long way towards reaching our goals.

Here are some more specifics when it comes to moderating portions:

Start your lunch or dinner with a salad. Fill up with cruciferous (crunchy) veggies as they take time to chew, are filling and exceptionally nutritious.

If you are starved, drink a large glass of water before you start eating.

Eat slowly and chew your food. It takes our brain about 20 minutes to acknowledge it has received food, so a lot of the time, we overeat as we still think we are hungry.

Use this guide when making a lunch or dinner plate. And as always, once the plate is made, avoid going for seconds.

  • 3 oz of meat =  a child’s palm or deck of cards
  • 5 oz of meat = an adult’s palm or two decks of cards
  • 1/2 cup of pasta or grain = 1/2 of a baseball (not softball)
  • 1 teaspoon of butter = the tip of your fingertip
  • 1 teaspoon oil = the tip of your finger
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butte = 1/2 ping pong ball
  • 1 medium fruit =  a fist or baseball
  • 1 ounce of cheese =  four dice
  • 1 tablespoon dressing = 1/2 of thumb
  • 1 cup veggies = a fist or baseball
  • 1 bagel = a hockey puck
  • 1 slice of bread = a cassette tape
  • 1 cup of cereal = a fist or a baseball
  • 1 pancake = a compact disc

I know everyone has mp3 players – but we all still know just how big (or small) a CD is! This should be music to our ears: thinking not about food per se, but about how we consume food can really lead to some amazing results. It will increase your health and outlook in general. It is both overwhelming and a privilege to have all the food choices we do – so choosing wisely and consciously will enhance our life experience.

Remember, it never has to be an all or nothing approach; but every positive step brings each of us closer to our ultimate goals.